Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/467

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THE LANGLEY AERODROME

463

take up the work and to use in connection with it such facilities of the institution as were available.

Before consenting to undertake the construction of this large machine, I had fully appreciated that, owing to theoretical considerations, into which I do not enter, it would need to be relatively lighter than the smaller one; and later it was so constructed, each foot of sustaining surface in the large machine carrying nearly the same weight as each foot in the model. The difficulties subsequently experienced with the larger machine were, then, due not to this cause, but to practical obstacles connected with the launching, and the like.

I had also fully appreciated the fact that one of the chief difficulties in its construction would lie in the procuring of a suitable engine of sufficient power and, at the same time, one which was light enough. (The models had been driven by steam engines whose water supply weighed too much for very long flights.) The construction of the steam engine is well understood, but now it would become necessary to replace this by gas engines, which for this purpose involve novel difficulties. I resolved not to attempt the task of constructing the engine myself, and had accordingly entered into negotiations with the best engine builders in this country, and after long delay had finally secured a contract with a builder who, of all persons engaged in such work, seemed most likely to achieve success. It was only after this contract for the engine had been signed that I felt willing to formally undertake the work of building the aerodrome.

The contract with the engine builder called for an engine developing 12 brake horsepower, and weighing not more than 100 pounds, including cooling water and all other accessories, and with the proviso that a second engine, exactly like this first one, would be furnished on the same terms. The first engine was to be delivered before the close of February, 1899, and the frame of the aerodrome with sustaining surfaces, propellers, shafting, rudders, etc., was immediately planned, and now that the engine was believed to be secured, their actual construction was pushed with the utmost speed. The previous experiments with steam-driven models, which had been so successful, had been conducted over the water, using a small house-boat having a cabin for storing the machine, appliances and tools, on top of which was mounted a track and car for use in launching. As full success in launching these working models had been achieved after several years spent in devising, testing and improving this plan, I decided to follow the same method with the large machine, and accordingly designed and had built a house-boat, in which the machine could not only be stored, but which would also furnish space for workshops, and on the top of which was mounted a turntable and track for use in launching from whatever direction the wind might come.